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Investigating a Non-Surgical Option for Severe Emphysema

Pulmonology faculty in the Department of Medicine Paul Branca, MD, James Shamiyeh, MD, and Michael McCormack, MD, are leading a clinical trial to provide a new treatment option for patients affected by emphysema, a major health concern in Tennessee that is often preventable and has no cure. Emphysema, most often caused by smoking, is a condition in which air sacs of the lungs are damaged and enlarged, causing breathlessness.

While emphysema can’t be cured, there are treatment options to help relieve symptoms and slow the disease’s progression, including medications such as smoking cessation drugs, inhaled steroids and antibiotics. When medical therapy is no longer effective, doctors must consider surgical interventions, such as lung volume reduction or lung transplant. Lung volume reduction is a procedure that removes the most severely damaged and over-inflated areas of the lung, allowing the healthier lung tissue to expand. It is considered a major, invasive surgery, and most emphysema sufferers are not optimal candidates.

The University of Tennessee Medical Center is one of fewer than 20 centers in the country, and the only center in Tennessee, participating in the EMPROVE clinical trial, evaluating a new device that provides lung volume reduction for patients without undergoing surgery. Using a bronchoscope, a small umbrella shaped, one-way valve is placed in the airways leading to the damaged lung. The valves allow air and secretions to come out of the target lobe when the patient exhales but prevent air from reentering on inhalation. The damaged part of the lung deflates, allowing the healthier portion to expand.

The clinical trial is open and recruiting patients who have daily symptoms. Patients must have completed pulmonary rehabilitation and must have quit smoking for at least four months. To learn more, contact the trial coordinator, Lauren Davis, at 865-305-7975.

Posted April 16, 2014

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